Paul E. Anna: High Points |

Paul E. Anna: High Points

Paul E. Anna
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

“Enjoy the show.” With those words Jon Busch sent me, and my fellow patrons who had gathered this past Wednesday evening, on another wonderful celluloid journey at the Wheeler Opera House.

This time the show was Martin Scorsese’s epic 3D film (though we watched in the more familiar two dimensions) “Hugo,” about an orphaned boy who keeps the clocks running in a fantastical and fictional Parisian train station. While that is an accurate description of the film, it does not do it justice, nor begin to describe the illusions and allusions to love, life lessons, and most of all the passion for filmmaking that are at the heart of the film.

I have no idea how many times I have sat in the seats of that magnificent theater anxiously awaiting a film that was better because Jon introduced it. Jon is one of this town’s great treasures. For years he has brought us the best films and has not only explained them to us, he has made us feel a part of the greater film community. When he takes the stage, now with more than a wisp of white on his head, the audience always applauds. And in the moments before the show begins, he gives us just enough information to enhance the film, but never enough to give it away.

Longtime residents may remember Dominic Linza, who back in the day when the Isis was a single-screen, family-owned theater, would introduce the films in his folksy manner. If you do, you no doubt miss him. The entire film going experience has changed dramatically now that we have the multi-plex in that space. Not that I don’t enjoy having a bit of variety to choose from, but between the commercials that run before the films, the $5 bags of popcorn and the amphitheater style seating I feel a bit, um, manipulated. One Cineplex is like any other.

Ah, but walk the stairs and enter the Wheeler to watch a film and you know you are in an entertainment palace. One with history, style and panache. Jon’s introductions of the films add to that sense of style. He gives it an “only in Aspen” feel. In fact the Wheeler and Jon Busch are unique. Nowhere else in the world can you go to a theater like this one. Built in 1899 and refurbished to beyond its former glory in the 1980s, the Wheeler Opera House is one of the great places to both see, and hear, a film.

After dinner I stopped in Justice Snow’s, the new eatery and bar in the corner of the Wheeler. As I walked to the back of the restaurant I was stopped in my tracks, looking at the diptych on the two walls that lead to the kitchen. It is made from two photos taken inside the Wheeler after fires in November 1912 -100 years ago – rendered the building derelict. The stage is magnificent in the photos, despite the damage.

It is hard to believe that, a century later, the Wheeler still hosts us at the movies. And that Jon Busch is there to introduce them.

How lucky we are.